He was there, smiling with his yellow teeth, his grin wide enough to display all of the teeth leftover in his mouth, his blue biomechanical eye looking, staring as I came struggling out of my hospital room.
“I’ve been waiting.” Was the first thing that came out of his mouth.
“For what?” I asked.
Maybe I should have remembered something, but at the moment, his words seemed pretty pointless to me.
He grinned again, his lips thinning as the smile widened.
“Your early retirement application.” He said simply, as he looked at me, the confused one with the squinted eyes, hoping to make more sense of it all.
We stayed like that for a bit, both of us staring at each other in our own quirky, weird ways.
“You said,” he continued, his face expression non-changing, the smile wider and wider. “And let me quote on this, ‘expect my early retirement application once I’m done with this deal’.”
I’m sure it wasn’t that long ago, but it felt like a long time ago to me at the moment.
“Oh, that.” I said, not sounding surprised, even though I was that he even remembered.
“Yes, that.” He nodded, and nodded again.
I shrugged at it. It didn’t matter if I was without a job or not, because my pension from my time at the military and government jobs should cover my living enough for me to live till I was old and crummy, the mind barely functioning enough to be considered human.
“I guess I could if you wanted me to.” I replied, unsure what the creepy old man wanted me to say.
“Oh, but you shouldn’t.” He said in the same low-toned voice. “Because you haven’t accomplished your assignment yet.” He paused, as if his lungs could barely get enough air for the words he spoke. “We still haven’t gotten her memory bank yet, and we still do verily need the secrets that are hidden in her knowledge.”
“And you need me for this?” I asked him in disbelief, since this seemed like a bad idea considering how horribly I handled the situation myself.
The old man shrugged, his bald head reflecting the bland white light from the hospital hallway. “We could do it either with or without you, although I doubt your exclusion will help the deal any at all.”
“So, you do need me?”
“We’re not opposed if you decide to not quit quite yet.”
Looking at him smiling at me, I just shrugged at it. With her done, and me in a still-not-fully-normal-yet state, no decision seemed to matter at the time.
“Good, because the next case has already started without you.” He said, as he motioned me to follow him.
“Well, cases do and don’t, I’m sure you guys are a rather busy place.” I said, as I struggled to follow the old man. My wounds hadn’t completely healed yet, and I couldn’t walk yet on my own, relying on an ancient wooden walking stick to aid me in my attempts at being a gimp.
Looking back at me, who was already out of breath after attempting to catch up with him for only three steps, the old man said. “You know, if you only replaced them with biomechanical legs…”
And I tuned him out before he even said anything else.
He lead me to his black limousine, driven by a man who looked like he was dressed in a bellman uniform from some five star hotel around the city. His face was stern, the chin chiseled to perfection, and he looked more like a statue carved out of marble than a living being, an impression that made him more, well, impressive than he probably really was.
“Take us to the suicide site.” The old man said as the chauffeur opened the door for us, the back door waxed enough that it was able to reflect brightly back the dim sunlight through the clouds. The uniformed man nodded in a single, firm nod, his silence louder than any word he could have spoken to respond.
The interior of the car looked bigger than what the outside showed it could fit, feeling more like a family room or a condo than a limousine.
Shocked by it, I could barely figure out where, or how, I should sit in the setting the seats were placed inside the car.
The old man went directly to the seat on the back, as if that had always been the seat that he had sat on, and maybe it had, for he fit comfortably onto it, the color and shape of his face changing as he laid back, relaxed, the sun shining through the slit lines through the back tinted window.
“Please, sit down.” He said as he closed his eyes to feel the warmth of the sun, sunbathing like a lizard might to warm up its blood. “The car is about to start, and I wouldn’t want you stumbling and hurting yourself more than what you are now.”
Nodding, embarrassed for some reason, I picked the seat nearest to me and sat down, the legs already sore from the small walk.
Picking out a folder from a drawer that was hidden at the side of the car, he handed it to me and said in a voice that didn’t sound like his own, as if he was possessed by a devil of some sort. “Read it.” He spoke, and handed it to me.
The folder was new, like something that he, or one of his hired goons, had picked up the morning of. There were a lot of pictures inside with police files and autopsy reports, all of them scattered, as if whoever purchased the folder had forgotten to pick up some clips to keep them all ordered together.
The old man looked at me, or stared, for better phrasing, as I flipped through the papers and photos, looking at each of them and trying to piece the visuals with the words that were written on a paper somewhere in the mess.
The ride was smooth, for I felt nothing as I glimpsed through it all.
Well, it was either smooth, or I was too concentrated to notice any bumps or turns that the chauffeur did.
Either way, the old man asked as soon as he saw me turn the folder’s end to close it, as if he had been waiting for it, anticipating, even. “What do you think about the case?”
“What about it?” I looked at him. “They all seemed unrelated in a way, except for the fact that they all killed themselves in a suicide.”
He smiled at this. “Yes, I know.” He nodded, and tapped at the folder, reaching slowly across the space between us. “But I also know that you were working on a case similar to this one when you transferred to FIBA, am I correct?”
“And I believe that, according to the files turned in by your old partner, Rob, the cases were related to Echo in a way, am I correct?”
Staring at him, a bit angry at the way FIBA snooped around other departments secrets, I remembered the reason why I transferred to be a cop in the first place.
“Are you saying that these cases might be related to those ones?”
He shrugged, grinning once again with his yellow teeth. “I don’t see why not.”
Looking out the window, thinking, I asked “have you guys tried checking their computers to see if they’ve been to any social networks in the last few days before their death?”
“We have.” He nodded. “But we didn’t find anything at all.” He paused as he took the folder away from me, flipping through the photos and words himself. “None of the victims frequented social networks at all, some of them actually computer illiterate enough that they still used the old Windows Operating System instead of the Halograph Operation System.”
“Windows can barely run the net now, so they probably barely got on, huh?”
“Pretty much,” the old man smiled at this. “From the data we pulled out of their computers, some of them didn’t even use their computers for anything else besides typing word documents and spreadsheet data for their work.”
“So, not really related to Echo’s case at all then?” I asked, coming to the most common sense solution I had at the moment.
“Maybe, maybe not.” The old man shrugged. “But the alleged first cases did start up at around the same time Echo disappeared, when her protection building was attacked and bombed. So, with her still missing and back into the society again, anything is possible at this moment.”
Rubbing my chin, wondering about the outside weather, I asked “This sounds more like a case for the normal police than a higher rank security organization like FIBA.”
The old man smiled at my remark. “Yes, that is true.” He replied, looking at me. “But remember, we are also still trying to retrieve the memory bank that is implanted inside the brain of Echo. So anything that might have an inkling leading to her, will involve us in the end.”
“So what do you want me to do then? Just go in there and act like a cop?”
He smiled at this, again, his yellow teeth showing with a wide presence. “With the condition you’re in, it wouldn’t hurt to be stuck as a cop.”